An Internet service provider that last week threatened to pull the plug on the City of Palo Alto's Internet connection has agreed to keep the city hooked up until a formal agreement is reached.
The nonprofit Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), which has been providing free Internet access to Palo Alto for 17 years, gave the city a two-week notice of termination last Wednesday (March 29). The service was to end April 14.
Stephen Stuart, a Crescent Park resident who built the original Internet server and arranged the deal for the city, decided to rescind the informal arrangement after city planners gave a tentative approval to AT&T to put a 50-foot cell tower on St. Albert the Great Church at 1095 Channing Ave.
Stuart, who lives on the block, argued in a letter to the city that the approval violates the city's zoning regulations and threatens to bring down the property values on the block. His severed reltionship surprised city officials and prompted them to scramble to find a new Internet provider.
Since then, however, the ISC and Palo Alto City Manager James Keene reached an agreement to keep City Hall plugged into the Internet until the city either reaches a formal agreement with the consortium or finds a new provider, Keene announced in a statement Monday. The consortium is now putting together a proposal listing the services it provides to the city and the terms under which it would continue to provide these services.
Keene said in the statement that the consortium has also agreed to give some technical assistance to Palo Alto along with a "reasonable amount of time" to switch to a new provider if the city opts to do so.
Keene said city and consortium officials have agreed to meet soon and determine the best way to move forward.
"We are very appreciative that ISC will ensure our continuity of Internet service," Keene said in the statement. "I think that once ISC understood the gravity of the situation for the City, they were immediately willing to work with us to resolve the situation."
As part of the longstanding, unofficial agreement, Internet Systems Consortium had been providing Internet access to the Palo Alto Unified School District and Media Center, along with the city. It did not plan to cut service to the district or Media Center, however.
Laura Hendriksen, the consortium's director of business operations, said she could not comment on negotiations with the city at this time, but an email she provided to the Weekly that was sent to Keene on April 4 apologized for the abrupt manner in which the incident was handled.
"ISC issued the disconnect due to the withdrawal of sponsorship and volunteer efforts by Stephen Stuart," she wrote.
"While Mr. Stuart was the key driver in the initiation of this service, the service is currently provided by ISC to the city.
"Unfortunately this service was not covered under any contract or service agreement due to the way this relationship developed. ISC was unclear exactly what services are being provided to the city and on what terms. We now understand our undocumented role," she wrote.
Regardless of whether the city chooses to stick with ISC or picks another provider, ISC would work to assure a smooth transition, she said.
Stuart said by phone on Monday that he was glad the city and ISC are working together.
"I think it's great that they connected with each other and came to an agreement that does not involve me," he said.
Stuart's wife, Tru Love, said on Tuesday that their home has been vandalized since news reports came out about the severed relationship between Stuart and the city.
The couple has received support from a number of strangers who agree with the couple's stance on the cell tower, she said.
But someone removed several boards from her garage on April 5 and jammed them into her electronic gate, causing it to break, she said. She has called the police to report the vandalism.
"It's one thing to have a conversation, but to do vandalism against someone who is speaking out is another," she said.
"It's disturbing and overwhelming. I expected so much more from Palo Alto."